Saturday, February 23, 2013

Double Trouble!

We biked out for breakfast on my last day.  The girls have graduated from bike seats to tag-alongs.

Our caravan attracted plenty of friendly attention - the cuteness factor was high!

All lined up!

Rounding a curve...

Sparing a backward glance!

Uh oh - gearing up to pass in a 15 m.p.h. no-passing zone!!!
Nor are they merely "along for the ride" - they pedaled steadily the entire time, and were able to boost the speed and power of the combined vehicle.  Kind of like (very adorable) outboard motors.  Look out world!!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


Beach Views

I have spent most of the day working on my Túrin Decision-Making Flow Chart (sort of excused as coursework, as it forces me to delve into the Silmarillion), rollerblading (more trips to the local store in hopes of seeing the Girl Scout cookie table again), beautifying (nails and Nair), and working on a book review for Mythprint (which mostly involved re-reading the children's book I agreed to review).

So I've been swamped! Swamped, I tell you!  Though I'll admit it's hard to feel swamped with ocean views and the sound of the waves crashing in their unhurried yet inexorable way.

But I took time out of this incredibly hectic schedule to go down to the beach and take some pictures.

This sign cracks me up.

Egg sac.

Before Sunset.
Yeah, I could get used to this.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Three-Hour Lunch Break

So I probably spent about 9 hours on the first exam, which had 3 questions.

The second exam had only 2 questions, so naturally I feared the worst....

But three hours into the process, I took a 3-hour break to have lunch with friends at a local tea shop.  It was fun.  The vanilla scones were delicious, though rather small.

I suppose it depends on how you count it, but if you include all the time I spent poring through the Silmarillion collecting information about "light" in connection to Beren, Fëanor, and Thingol, it was about 12 hours of work before I got things into shape for final editing and proof-reading.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Braving Nemo

I had planned to visit my parents this past weekend.  I'd requested Friday afternoon off, planned out my transportation, and thought nothing more of it.  And then Thursday evening, my mom suggested that I might consider the impending blizzard.  All bets were off for a while, but with some last-minute scrambling, the stars re-aligned, and I headed north bright and early Friday morning.

We got about 20 inches of snow over 2 days; it was nice and cozy to stay inside while the wind gusted.

The snow was whipped around the house and carved like sand in a desert, into dunes as high as 8 feet.  Thus, on one side of the house, much of the yard was stripped of snow; but it appeared incongruously elsewhere on the other sides.  I found it was really difficult to get a picture that conveyed the scale and shape of the drifts, so I didn't try very hard.

Friday night - 3-foot drifts formed after
less than 8 inches of snowfall.

Saturday afternoon - 8-foot drift
(seen through window)

We played games (Upwords and Boggle) and watched movies (favorite of the weekend: The Awful Truth), but eventually it stopped snowing and gusting.  Time to dig out.  Le sigh.

On Sunday, we headed off to church, and discovered that services had been canceled!  (We hadn't bothered checking first,  since this is a local church that most parishioners can walk to. And because the storm had stopped about 24 hours earlier.)

However, this freed us up  to go tromp around in the snow a bit.  We soon discovered that 20 inches of snow is a bit tricky to walk in without snowshoes or skis...  So we kept trying different parks and public spaces.  Eventually, we found a pleasant wood -- essentially by chance, as it was unmarked and unadvertised -- where the snow was not so deep.  It was really lovely.  Although previously unknown to us, the area is apparently known to dog fanciers, so we met several dogs -- all friendly -- and their owners.

So glad I made the trip.


So, today I had the day off.  Obviously, I spent the day thinking about Lincoln.  Obviously.

But I also managed to get some stuff done in-between those deep, Lincolny thoughts.  Ran 2 miles (woot!).  Scanned and shredded a small mountain of documents that had been piling up since October.  Started assembling the documents I'll need for Tax Day.  Went to my volunteer reading program (my student was absent, worse luck, but at least I get credit for trying).  Picked up some books and movies from the library. Re-stocked basic kitchen supplies (ginger, garlic, onions, almonds) and picked up some dried mangoes (yum).  Cleaned things up a bit around the apartment.  Read several chapters of Between Silk and Cyanide.  Enjoyed the bouts of sunshine as they occurred sporadically throughout the day.  Didn't get a lot done on my coursework, but I consider it a day well-spent.

Monday, February 11, 2013


Pope Benedict XVI has served 7+ years, far less than his predecessor.

I am sure he must have been ambitious; otherwise he would never have been in a position to be chosen as Pope in the first place. And the position itself surely provides many perks and privileges associated with power.

This is all to say that while it is difficult for any of us to acknowledge the mental and physical diminishment of increased age, one who holds the position of Pope faces a particular form of temptation. His ordinary human hurdle of pride is raised to the nth degree (as with other very ambitious and successful men who are surrounded by yes-men), and -- significantly -- it is very easy for this pride to take on the appearance of humility, as self-sacrificing devotion to duty.  (The fair semblance is all the more fair-seeming  of course because there is, in fact, a countervailing duty.)

So I'm inclined to say this is a courageous decision. He was surely under pressure to continue on, and was surrounded by colleagues who would have covered for him as long as he lived.  He is renouncing the comforts and support of the papal office, and opening himself to new levels of criticism within and without the church. Although I am sure the church would not allow him to go forth as a mendicant, he appears to be nonetheless proceeding on faith, relinquishing control of his destiny as he faces the inevitable decline toward death.

It is too early to say what the verdict of history will be -- perhaps we will learn of scandals narrowly averted by his resignation -- but it is possible that his claim to greatness (if any) will lie in his humble and prayerful renunciation of rank, leadership, and privilege for the life and health of his church.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Scribbles in the Dark (or Third Time Pays for All)

So I've seen the Hobbit movie three times (twice on opening weekend, and once about a month later).  I don't think I'll watch it again. 

During the third viewing, I jotted down many notes of things I wished to remember and comment on.  Unfortunately, I was scribbling in the dark on the few scraps of paper I had available to me - a business card and a band-aid wrapper.  So at this point - after a few weeks' delay -- I cannot decipher most of the writing and have no idea what the scrawling was intended to signify.

So here are my after-impressions, aided or inspired by a few of the more legible scrawls.


  • Wargs can smell and track the dwarves in the rain.  A very impressive skill, not shared by their normal-earth counterparts as far as I know.
  • Thorin & Co sneak off for a speedy, clever getaway from the elves, which completely discourages the elves from even trying to find the dwarves. But Gandalf easily catches up with the dwarves.  No problemo.  (Note to self: Is Gandalf part-warg?)

Riddles in the Dark Scene:

There's a wonderful homage to the fish riddle before the actual riddle game begins (while Gollum is happily talking to himself and killing the orc).

The riddles officially included in the movie are: 

  • Mountain 
  • Teeth
  • Wind
  • Time 
The Time riddle is my favorite in the Peter Jackson film, a lovely homage to the Rankin-Bass version. Specifically, Gollum is out of sight (hidden behind a rock) as he poses the riddle, so his voice seems to resonate throughout the space without a visible source.  This brings to mind the disembodied chanting of (I think) the Time riddle in the R-B film.

Candidate for Most Mysterious Change:

Gollum says, in an odd reversal of the book's formula (and, I believe, the common form), that his grandma taught him how to suck eggs.  This change must have been deliberate, but why?  An inside joke?   

Translation Into Film:

For film purposes, it would probably not have been very interesting for the dwarves to go back looking for Bilbo; and it would have been bad for them to seemingly abandon him; so they had a scene that gave the dwarves good reason to believe that Bilbo left.  This absolved them of the need to go looking for him during the riddle scene.  (As a general comment, the dwarves are much braver in the film than in the book, and generally less outrageous.  This is essentially a return to the earliest conception as seen in the Pryftan fragment; Tolkien made the dwarves over-the-top obnoxious and incompetent in the published version of the opening chapter, really caricatures rather than characters, presumably for humorous effect.  But this would not work well on film, I think -- toning them down to within the normal range is very important.  We see this in the Harry Potter films as well - the film-Dursleys are within the normal range of unpleasantness, both in their physical appearances and their level of cruelty, as compared with the near-caricatures we see in the book-Dursleys.  For example, the film-Petunia is merely thin, rather than "horse-faced and bony" with "nearly twice the usual amount of neck"; and the film-Vernon is merely plump, rather than "large and neckless" with "small, sharp eyes".)